Michelle Branch, ‘Hotel Paper’ (Maverick/Warner Bros.)
Michelle, notre belle, we feel for you. Your 2001 debut,The Spirit Room, displayed a clear readiness to rock, admirable in one so young. But when Avril Lavigne skated in, everyone forgot you because Avril was more fun to argue about. Due props, then, for sticking to your folk-rock guns (and steering clear of the Matrix) on Hotel Paper, which boasts road-toughened guitars and a welcome accusatory edge (“Love Me Like That”). One piece of advice: We know you can sing circles around the competition-but you don’t have topro-oo-oo-oo-ve it on every phrase-perfect chorus.You’re 20 now; it’s time to start making some mistakes.